Book Club Selection Speaks to Paws & Effect Mission

The Paws & Effect Book Club selection for September 2015 is "Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process" by Irene Pepperberg.

Pepperberg, a scientist who studies animal cognition, tells the story of Alex—short for "Avian Learning Experiment"—an African Grey parrot who mastered a vocabulary of more than 100 words, and was able to answer questions about colors, shapes, and objects.

In her research, Pepperberg indicated that Alex's language abilities were comparable to those of dolphins and great apes. In the book, she also tells of other avian examples of intelligence and understanding.

"Paws & Effect is deeply committed to celebrating and contributing to research about the human-animal bond, and the roles that animals can play in our lives," says Executive Director Nicole Shumate. "That's why our book club uses titles like 'Alex & Me' as foundations for discussion. That's why we're partnering with brain researchers at Des Moines University. And that's why our latest litter of future service dogs is named to honor individuals such as co-founder of Pet Partners Leo Bustad; primatologist Jane Goodall; and animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin. In addition to 'Leo,' 'Goodall,' and 'Grandin,' we have our own 'Alex'!"

The book club discussion will take place 6:30 to 8 p.m., Thurs., Sept. 17, 2015 at the Grand View University main campus library, Des Moines, Iowa.

The library is located on East 14th Street, between Grandview and Morton Avenues. For directions to campus and maps, click here.

The book is also available available on Kindle format.

Paws & Effect to Support DMU Canine Brain Research

PHOTO: Des Moines University, Des Moines, Iowa

Paws & Effect greets the new year with the announcement of three developments related to increasing awareness, study, and appreciation of human-animal interactions.

In addition to the organization's induction into memberships into the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) and the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO), the Central Iowa non-profit recently formalized its support of a Des Moines University medical research program that resources study of canine brain anatomy.

Established in 2006, Paws & Effect is a Des Moines, Iowa-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that raises, trains, and places service dogs with military veterans and children diagnosed with medical needs. The group also registers therapy animals through Pet Partners, and regularly hosts NADAC-sanctioned dog-agility events for fun and fund raising.

"Paws & Effect's involvement in the research community is a reflection of our commitment to the human-animal bond," says Paws & Effect Executive Director Nicole Shumate. "There are many questions yet to be answered and we seek to be involved in research that can bring a more clear understanding to what we witness every day. As we approach our 10-year anniversary, we are increasingly able to be supportive of the therapy and service dog industry in significant and meaningful ways."

Muhammad Spocter, a biologist and anthropologist who is an assistant professor in university's department of anatomy, will lead the effort to collect tissue samples and document variations in canine brains. "The establishment of a Canine Dog Brain Registry and accompanying Biospecimen Repository will serve as valuable resource for researchers interested in canine mental health, cognition and brain variation," he writes. "This resource will be used to inform ongoing studies of behavioral disorders in canines, as well as studies of mental health disorders in humans (e.g., PTSD)."

"Tissue from the collection will be made freely available to researchers within the region (based on scientific merit of project proposals), and will be annotated with relevant clinical and behavioral data," he continues. "Research outcomes and imaging resources generated from this data will be made freely available through an online portal to help foster ongoing interest from the public and help educators interested in using some of this data in their classes."